Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaims at national and global forums that the Constitution of India is the holy book of the country. His government also ostentatiously celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It is rather ironic then that an appointee of his government, IGNCA’s new chief Ram Bahadur Rai, is questioning the relevance of the Constitution and the role of Ambedkar in formulating it.
Ambedkar does not require any testimonial or certificate from those who are opposed to the Constitution. However, it is important to restate that it is because of Ambedkar that we have today a Constitution which defines India in terms of its diversity, secularism and plurality. Such a broad-spectrum understanding of India is anathema to the Sangh Parivar.
A peep into the history of constitution-making in India shows that Ambedkar did not aspire to draft the Constitution of India. He had stated in the Constituent Assembly (CA) that he entered the portals of the hallowed assembly to protect the interests of the Scheduled Castes and he had not the remotest idea that he would be asked to draft the Constitution as chairman of the drafting committee. The CA in its wisdom gave that responsibility to Ambedkar.
T.T. Krishnamachari, who was a member of the drafting committee, had once spoken about the drafting process. Out of seven members of the drafting committee, he said, one resigned and was replaced. One member died and that vacancy was never filled up. One member was away in America while the another one was busy in many other state affairs. Two other members resided far away from Delhi and could not attend the meetings of the drafting committee due to ill health. “Ultimately… the burden of drafting this constitution fell on Dr Ambedkar and I have no doubt that we are grateful to him for having achieved this task in a manner which is undoubtedly commendable,” Krishnamachari concluded. Rajendra Prasad, president of the CA, appreciated the role played by Ambedkar and said, “We could never make a decision which was or could be ever so right as well we put him on the drafting committee and made him its chairman. He has not only justified his selection but added lustre to the work.”
It is rather strange that Ambedkar’s role in framing the Constitution is being negated now by those who did not participate in the freedom struggle and, in fact, consistently opposed a constitutional scheme based on secularism, social justice, socialism and safeguards for minorities of our country.
On March 6, 2011, Organiser, the mouthpiece of RSS, wrote: “The credit for drawing up the draft of the Constitution is generally attributed to B.R. Ambedkar and it has seldom been questioned. What is not generally known, even among the literate, is that most of the work was done by B.N. Rau, who had been appointed by the viceroy to be the advisor to the Constituent Assembly.”
The attempt to undermine the role of Ambedkar in framing the Constitution is a step towards delegitimising the Constitution itself. It is part of a grand design to usher in the Hindu Rashtra which Ambedkar had described as arrant nonsense. He had also predicted that if the Hindu Raj would eventually materialise, that would lead to calamity for the entire country.
Any step to negate India’s composite culture and pluralism needs to be nipped in the bud. The entire project of Hindu Rashtra is a project of insurrection. It aims at replacing the secular Constitution given by Ambedkar with a theocratic Constitution. When the Hindutva forces succeeded in destroying Babri Masjid, they also released a document which denounced the Constitution as anti-Hindu. These forces even argued that the present Constitution is against Indian culture.
The call to revisit the Constitution on the plea that it does not uphold the cause of the Hindus is part of a diabolical strategy to negate the very idea of India and constructive nationalism fashioned during the freedom movement. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister, an attempt was made to review the Constitution. The then president, K.R. Narayanan, put the debate in perspective when he said, “Let us examine whether the Constitution has failed us or we have failed the Constitution”. The Vajpayee government had to reconsider its decision to review the Constitution. Instead of appointing a Commission to Review the Constitution, it appointed a Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.